Ecommerce Customer Service: 11 Practical Steps to Success

updated December 7, 2023
Reading time12 minutes
Igor Shekotihin
Igor Shekotihin
Head of International Growth

Looking to improve customer service for your ecommerce business? Read on.

Buying online and connecting with brands over the internet is now a normal part of our lives.

We reach out to companies online to find out about products, get an answer to our questions, or solve issues we're having with their service. And as the pace of our daily life increases, so do our expectations of how quickly customer service teams on the internet will answer our needs.

The ecommerce industry has exploded - 263 million online buyers are expected this year in the United States alone, while average annual spending in European countries grows every year.

These figures tell us that as shoppers continue to move online, companies need to create a stable customer support service to handle queries and respond to people in a timely, effective manner.

In this piece, we're going to breakdown:

  • What is ecommerce customer service?
  • The cost of poor customer service
  • 11 ways to improve ecommerce customer service

Let's get started.

What is Ecommerce Customer Service?

Ecommerce customer service is a digital form of customer service where a team supports customers throughout their buying journey, handles queries, and provides post-purchase care.

While ecommerce customer service is similar to what's provided in brick and mortar stores (answering questions and giving information about products), there are some significant differences for digital teams, such as:

  • There can be thousands of customers on your website, leading to a large number of questions and support requests at once.
  • As customers reach out for help using multiple platforms, companies need to make sure no requests fall through the cracks.
  • Customer service teams can be the first interaction a customer has with your company online—if you don't provide the tools the department needs to handle queries quickly and sufficiently, it can negatively impact your brand.

And that last point—providing good customer service—is an interesting one. Brands often think they're giving great customer service, but their customers don’t always agree.

In fact, 80% of businesses believe they provide their customers with excellent customer service, but only 8% of customers agree with them.

And, its this gap in perception that can be very costly for ecommerce brands:

why do customers leave a company

The Cost of Poor Customer Service

Poor customer service can impact every business—from America to Antarctica.

In the UK alone, it's estimated that businesses lose about £37 billion every year because of poor customer service.

Even worse, customers will remember bad customer experiences more than when they have a positive interaction with a company. According to an Association for Psychological Science report, it's just the way our brains are wired—we remember the bad and forget the good.

This behavior is significant for ecommerce businesses who rely on online purchases because customers will look at other shoppers' reviews before making a purchasing decision. According to data from ReviewTracker, an eye-watering 94% of people will avoid a business if they have negative reviews against them:

63.3 percent of consumers have never heard back from a business after leaving a review

And it gets worse. Over 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction due to a poor experience, and 44% have switched to a competitor because of bad customer service.

Kate Zabriske put it best when she stated that "the customer’s perception is your reality".

So, what are some of the ways you can improve your ecommerce customer service?

Let's find out.

11 Ways to Improve Ecommerce Customer Service

The impact of improving customer service goes beyond making your customers happy (which is still super important!)

It can have a knock-on effect—impacting everything from sales numbers to customer retention and online reputation. Even small events like passing your customer from service agent to service agent can negatively impact their experience with your company. In fact:

  • Customers don't like the run around: 72% of consumers feel that getting passed around to different customer service departments is an example of poor customer service.
  • Customers like to feel appreciated: 48% of customers expect to feel special and appreciated for dealing with your business.
  • Customers don't like unhelpful staff: It's not surprising, but customers don't want to deal with rude or unhelpful staff. 68% of customers say the key to good customer service is politeness.
  • Customers like reaching out on their terms: Companies that adopt an omnichannel approach that encourages customers to reach out to them on their preferred channel benefit the most—10% Y-O-Y growth and average order value, and a 25% increase in close rates.
  • Customers like good mobile experiences: Customers like to reach out for help on their mobiles, but 90% of customers have had a poor experience seeking customer support on a mobile device.
  • Customers will talk about the good (and bad): Customers who have had a positive experience with your company will tell 6 people. But if the experience has been negative, they can share it with up to 15 people.

To make your customer experience as positive as possible, we recommend following these 11 tips.

1. Offer omnichannel service

We are no longer living in a society where phoning up customer service is the only option.

Today, customers expect to reach out to a company using their communication channel of choice, whether that's email, social media, or live chat.

Offering an omnichannel strategy—where you can track and answer questions across every channel—can significantly improve a customer's experience with your service team. In fact, brands that take an omnichannel approach to customer service retain about 89% of their customers. Those who don't prioritize omnichannel communications struggle, retaining just 33% of their client base.

Using an omnichannel business messenger like JivoChat enables you to handle all of your customer interactions across various channels. No matter if customers contact you over email, phone, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or live chat, every conversation is kept under one roof and synced directly with your CRM.

JivoChat panel

Image: An example of what your customer service team will see when they are managing communications using JivoChat

2. Optimize response times

When a customer reaches out to you online, they expect to get a quick answer.

90% of customers say getting an immediate response from a company is an important part of customer service. Around 20% of customers say that "long wait times" is their biggest frustration when it comes to the customer experience:

Customer frustration stats

Promptly responding to customers is one of the simplest, yet biggest, moves you can make to improve customer service and create a competitive advantage for your ecommerce business.

3. Make sure customers don’t have to repeat themselves

Nobody likes repeating themselves, especially when trying to find out information about a product or get a question answered.

In fact, repeating information to customer service teams is a leading cause of frustration amongst customers:

Customer service frustrations

The easiest way to avoid this issue is to sync your customer service channels with your CRM. This way, service reps can quickly look up a customer’s record and understand the problem they are facing without having to ask them to explain the issue all over again.

For example, JivoChat enables customer service teams to transfer omnichannel communications such as live chats and facebook messenger conversations directly into their CRM:

JivoChat CRM

Image: Agent dashboard where reps can transfer chat messages to other agents, and data is passed automatically to your CRM via JivoChat’s integrations.

4. Be proactive

Instead of waiting for customers to come to you with questions and issues, how about going to them first?

Having a proactive approach to customer service means reaching out to website visitors when they are on certain pages or displaying behavioral signals that would indicate they require assistance.

Imagine a customer in a brick and mortar store standing in front of an item for 10 minutes. In all likelihood, a staff member would go to them and ask if they needed any help. This is the type of customer service you should try and mimic on your website.

You can use a tool like JivoChat to create triggers to start proactive live chat interactions with current and prospective customers. For example, if you want live chat to be triggered once a person spends 20 seconds on a product page, or if they haven't been active for 60 seconds, you can set a trigger to act automatically:

live chat triggers

Image: Configuring chat triggers with JivoChat.

5. Automate without losing your personal touch

Your customer service team can't be everywhere at once, and they can't be available 24/7.

Automating customer service means you are available to your customers every minute of the day. 25% of all customer interactions were automated in 2019, and this is expected to grow to 40% by 2023.

The good news is that you can automate your customers' interactions without losing the personal touch that so many people crave. For example, questions like "What is your return policy?" or "How can I track my order?" are examples of common queries that you can answer using automated chatbots that link to self-service resources.

JivoChat chatbot

Image source: JivoChat Chatbot

You can create pre-written answers to these common questions that solve the visitor's problem while maintaining your brand's voice. If done well enough, your visitors will still feel like they are talking to a real human!

6. Offer self-service

Customers like solving their own problems. In fact, 67% of customers say they would prefer to solve their problem rather than reaching out to a customer service rep.

You need to equip customers with enough information to self-service their issues, and a knowledge base is an ideal place to start. Studies show using self-service tools like knowledge bases reduce the average response times between teams and customers by 4 to 12 hours.

self-service average response time

For example, using JivoChat's knowledge base, customers can self-service common (but more complex) problems, like installing chat code, integrating with other tools, and setting up chat triggers. All a customer has to do is use the search bar, and the knowledge base will pull up an article they can use to solve their query:

JivoChat help desk

And the knowledge base will pull up an article they can use to solve their query:

JivoChat help desk


7. Ask for customer feedback, then analyze and act on it

Asking how satisfied your customers are is one of the easiest ways to gauge whether your customer service team is doing a good job.

The best time to ask a customer for feedback is immediately after the initial interaction. For example, if your customer reached out using live chat, you can get them to fill out a post-attendance form asking how their experience was and what your team can improve on.

Once you’ve collected enough forms, you can search for trends. If customers constantly say that your service is polite, but they waited a little longer than expected, you can then focus on optimizing response times.

8. Monitor metrics

Monitoring key metrics like customer satisfaction, response times, and missed chat messages are key to understanding where you need to improve.

Enterprise companies dig really deep into customer service metrics, using Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES) to monitor everything from response times to customer satisfaction.

For smaller businesses, monitoring metrics like missed chats and calls can give you an excellent understanding of your customer service flaws. Using JivoChat, you can create simple, aggregated reports that break down your customer service efforts. Just go into the tool's dashboard and click "Download":

JivoChat statistics

And you'll get a report showing how many times your customer service team has accepted calls and charts, and how many times your team missed out on interacting with a visitor:

JivoChat statistics

From there, you can create a game plan on how to plug the holes in your customer service efforts, like automating responses and promoting your knowledge base to help people self-service their queries.

9. Employ seasonal staff

Not every business operates 9 to 5.

For ecommerce businesses, an increased customer service demand is a real issue for seasonal periods like Easter and Christmas and other key times like Black Friday.

Skyes' Patrick Gorman says although meeting customer service needs during seasonal periods is critical to trading success.

"In response to these seasonal activity spikes, companies often need to increase their customer service staff between two- and ten-fold for a relatively short period of time," he says.

"This means they need to quickly hire the right people and train large numbers, without sacrificing quality or productivity."

The only way to cope is to employ seasonal staff, and Gorman says the investment required for this in terms of recruiting, training, and equipping temporary staff members can be a big one.

"Instead of taking care of everything in-house and investing so much time and capital in growing the team for only a few weeks or months of the year, using home-based agents covers the need to recruit, train and coach without the limitations of walls, desk space, and training facilities."

Luckily, ecommerce businesses can drastically limit this by having an up-to-date knowledge base, a detailed FAQ section, and automated live chat ready to go before seasonal trading spikes hit.

10. Focus on retention activities

Once a visitor becomes a customer, it should be an absolute priority for your company to keep them.

The good news is that a successful customer service strategy can have an impact on customer retention. Shopify stats show companies with proactive, quick, consistently good service can make a huge difference in customer loyalty and repurchase decisions.

Impact on repurchase

And customers who stick around spend more. Studies show retained customers buy more often and spend more than new customers.

For customer service teams, a small amount of effort can go a long way when retaining customers. For example, creating a feedback loop and a communication calendar to remind customer service reps to check-in with customers is a small but significant step in showing them you care.

11. Go above and beyond

Our last tip is simple—exceed your customer's expectations.

Going above and beyond what your customers expect is one of the best ways to improve their experience. Offer them a free upgrade. Follow up with them post sale. Extend their warranty. Send them a welcome gift.

Small touches can go a long way in building customer loyalty and a positive image for your brand.

Level-Up Your Ecommerce Customer Service Today

As our buying experiences continue to move online, customers' expectations will increase.

Customer service teams are expected to respond quickly and be helpful when a visitor lands on their website. They also need to be available outside of regular operating hours and be proactive with communication.

Without the right toolkit, this is a big ask.

For teams who want to give their customers a great experience, using an omnichannel customer service tool can take care of the heavy lifting. You can automate answers to common questions, encourage customers to self-service with a knowledge base, and track metrics to see what parts of your customer service need improvement.

Want to try a tool that makes omnichannel customer service easy? Check out JivoChat's free trial here!

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